The Height of Absurdity: The Train 2.1

2 February, 2016 by katelaity

Airships & Alchemy ebook webI arrived at Tansy’s house to find a flurry of activity going on. A lugubrious butler met me at the door and conducted me into the library and relieved me of my suitcase, then disappeared without a sound. I amused myself for some time looking at the wealth of volumes on the shelves but the excited anticipation of the day drove all thoughts of reading from my head.

Besides, there were all manner of peculiar noises to prick my curiosity. I cocked my head to figure out what the various bells, crashes and almost musical notes might indicate but there was little that made sense to me. I crept closer to the door, torn between politeness at keeping to my assigned room and an overweening desire to see the mysterious activities hidden to my eye.

Desiring to distract myself, my eye fell upon a document drawer that had been opened and left in disarray. I investigated further to find a trove of maps that detailed various parts of the world. Even as a silly boy maps had always excited my imagination to explore the unknown lands. I sighed over Patagonia, New Zealand and an accordion fold map of the Russian steppes, but such an adventure did not yet beckon me on. I would have to resign myself to the current escapade and hope that it provided ample novelty. After all, I had never been further from London than Brighton so it would all be new to me. Somehow travel amongst those who spoke the same language hardly seemed like an adventure, but I underestimated the variety of speech I would encounter in the realm—and had little idea of the strange escapades that awaited me.

‘Apologies, my friend,’ Tansy said, bursting into the library to find me poring over maps. ‘I say, you don’t have a hogskin bag to bring along, do you?’

Nonplussed I shook my head. ‘I have not.’

‘Then my old one shall have to do. Mr Bell despaired over polishing it sufficiently for the journey but he shall simply have to put his back into it, for we cannot travel without one.’

Being a novice at the business, I did not doubt his word. ‘And have you decided where we ought to go first?’

Tansy smiled. There was an arresting warmth in the expression that might have won over the most recalcitrant policeman enraged over a college prank. Legend had it that such it had accomplished on many an occasion. While Tansy had often been found in the thick of hijinks his record remained spotless and the law only ever looked upon him with benign well wishes. ‘I think Cornwall. It is the most absurd notion I could think of and since going south always feels as if one is going downward in this hemisphere anyway, it seemed the right way to reach the height of absurdity, if you understand what I mean.’

‘Perfectly,’ I said although the little gears of my thought processes continued to whir somewhat helplessly. I wasn’t so clever by half but I had already developed a strong sense of confidence in the young man’s (for man he was just then) ability to sort out tricky situations.

That is the best sort of traveling companion I can assure you.

‘Have you breakfasted?’

‘I have no valet at the moment, so I had only toast.’ The poverty of my situation made me envy rather particularly the lush home in which I found myself then. I hadn’t even realised it, but the scent of fresh breakfast foods had gradually crept toward my nostrils like an advancing army and now lay siege to a considerable hunger. My stomach rumbled.

‘Let us eat at once,’ Tansy said with a laugh, taking my arm and leading me to the breakfast room.

Although my eyes first went to the array of silver dishes which offered up the riches of a breakfast good enough for a king or two, as I sat back to enjoy my kippers, bacon and sausages I looked around the room. ‘Why, it’s like being in a medieval castle!’

Indeed the room had been painted to show a trompe-l’oeil of stone walls and arches with tapestries hung upon them showing adventures of knights and damsels on hunts or in bowers playing many curious instruments with gay abandon.

‘The previous owner had spent years painting this and I could not bear to deface it. It’s a bit lively for breakfast but I think it stimulates the mind for the day.’

‘I should think it would inspire an uncommon desire for adventure and whatnot, which I suppose could make one dangerously susceptible to bets and dares.’ I chuckled at that but Tansy only smiled.

‘I do not need much stimulation to seek adventure.’

Having breakfasted so well, we prepared to depart for Victoria Station. As the luggage was loaded onto the carriage, I began to wonder if there was anything Tansy was leaving behind. My lone grip seemed to offer a pretty paltry store of goods, yet I could not image what one might need beyond a few extra shirts, one’s shaving equipment and of course pen, ink and paper. The latter items carried with me most everywhere I went in my little leather case that felt like a part of my arm.

‘Oh, there are so many things that make a journey that much more comfortable,’ Tansy explained as his housekeeper ordered the stable boys about like an aproned Wellington. She and the butler would be accompanying us on the journey for they were married to one another, Mr and Mrs Bell, and might travel thus without anxiety.

Tansy consulted a colourful map of the land. Though I had familiarised myself with it as a school boy, I could never quite remember just how far it was to distant Cornwall, which Tansy assured me was like another country. ‘It is a land of legends.’

‘King Arthur and all that,’ I said drawing the obscure memory up from the past.

‘Oh yes, and the wreckers and the pirates.’ Tansy whistled the famous air.

‘Oh don’t whistle that infernal nonsense or it will be lodged in my head throughout the whole journey. I might just go mad.’ I laughed but I had spent a rather maddening week recently with just that problem.

‘Do you know there exists a reliable cure for that tiring situation?’ Tansy looked most serious.

‘A cure? No, do tell me, for it wears on my nerves like nothing else!’

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